Creature of Habit

There’s a very solid chance that if you were to ask me what I’m doing between 5am and 7am, I’m writing something. When the clock strikes 12pm, I’ll probably be headed to the dog park. 3:30pm? I’m likely at the gym.

With the exception of the weekend (where I have a different schedule of sorts) and vacations, I have a very solid routine in place that helps me stay sane. The regular occurrences help me to be more productive. They also help to reduce my stress level and therefore create a healthier, happier me. I’m not alone in my dependence on a routine. If you look back at many famous entrepreneurs, you’ll find that many of them have routines they follow.

As 2014 kicks off, many eager individuals will look to set New Year’s resolutions. Yet, a great deal of those resolutions will fall flat within the first few months. Most don’t even make it that far. The reason: Change is damn hard.

I recently read a book by Chip and Dan Heath that talked about behavior change (read my notes on it here). I thought the book was incredibly interesting and applicable to anyone that’s looking to make a change in their life and especially relevant to anyone with a New Year’s resolution. In the book, the Heath brothers talk about decisions and how they ultimately deplete your mental energy reserves. If you pack your day with decisions, you’ll eventually fall prey to laziness and the many vices you’re attempting to ignore. To quote Chip and Dan:

“Change is hard because people wear themselves out. And that’s the second surprise about change: what looks like laziness is often exhaustion.”

This exhaustion presents itself in multiple ways – popping through the drive-thru on the way home instead of cooking a meal, going to bed when you know you should be studying, eating the whole sleeve of Oreos when you promised yourself only two. Simply put: if your day is packed with difficult decisions that drain your willpower, you will ultimately cave at some point to temptations.

That’s exactly where habits and routines come into play.

Routines work by allowing you to focus energy on things that really matter. The key is to automate certain things in your life so they require little to no mental effort. They just happen. To quote Jeff Goins:

In the above example pertaining to going to the gym, I simply avoid this pitfall by scheduling time in my day for a workout. It’s just like any other meeting or phone call. When 3:00pm hits, Charlotte and I are out the door headed to go workout. The beauty is that it fits with our current schedules perfectly so that we can both go together. It also serves as a fantastic break in the day when my mental capacity for work is somewhere between “Good Luck” and “Not a Chance”.

As 2014 gets going, I’ve tried to automate a few other things to form new habits:

  • Reading – One of my main goals in 2014 was to read three books a month. The thing is I really want to read. But, many times, I find myself lying in bed at the end of the night to tired to get up and grab my Kindle. So, I just resolve to “do better tomorrow”. To overcome this situation and to ultimately be more successful, I started to read during the day when I’m eating. Between breakfast and lunch, I’m able to knock out a solid 30 minutes. It might not be much, but it’s a start in the right direction.
  • Meals – Diversity is important in your diet, but far too often, individuals are overwhelmed when trying to eat a healthier diet because there are so many options. When I was working with individuals to lose weight, the first piece of advice I would give them is to find 2-3 options for each meal during the day and only eat those things. You sacrifice diversity, but you more than make up for it with consistency. This consistency approach also falls right inline with a new coaching program I started at the end of 2013.
  • Writing – On a daily basis, I work with bloggers and writers to help them solve problems and ultimately, publish awesome content. I really love blogging and writing, but I also fall prey to the common pitfall of “thinking about writing rather than writing anything at all”. To help circumvent this issue and force myself to write even more, I decided to hope on Jeff Goin’s challenge, which encourages bloggers to write 500 words a day at minimum throughout January. I’m not looking to write a book (although I will do that someday). I just want to get in the habit of writing daily because I think it’s an important habit to have. I plan on trying to continue it throughout all of 2014.

All of these habits were made in an effort to reduce the chance of failure throughout my day-to-day. They allow me to focus energy on other decisions that require effortful thinking.

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